What do you think are the worst advertisements of all time? Hmm… Perhaps a few advertisements come to mind. When we think about failed ads, our minds automatically jump to those botched, big-budget commercials, never to be seen again.

Some bad advertising examples off the top are Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi commercial and Sony’s racist PSP ad. These are advertising mistakes and bad marketing campaigns from the get-go. However, the truth is even the most well-thought-out and perfectly executed ad campaign can flop.

When a good ad campaign fails, it can take a serious toll on a company’s bottom line. Every once in a while, you will encounter a business that crafts the perfect ad campaign but still ultimately fails. Failed ads are not necessarily the result of bad taste or poor writing. There are many factors at play resulting in failed advertising campaigns. You’ll learn these factors here to help you avoid the same pitfall.

We’ll also revisit one of the perfect ad campaigns that failed, and you’ll be surprised why. Keep reading.

The Marketing Myth

It’s a common belief that advertising can make or break a business. After all, effective marketing helps create brand awareness and drive customers to purchase your solutions. While that’s true, it tells only a smidge of the entire reality. Advertising, however, is not enough to bring a steady stream of traffic and sales to businesses.

Roy H. Williams says the belief that advertising is enough to drive steady traffic is one of marketing’s greatest myths. Some of the biggest failed ads are those that banked their advertising principles on this premise. Sadly, even if you hire the best ad writer or produce the most creative ad, sales are not assured. Relying simply on ads is one of a business’s biggest advertising mistakes.

Indeed, most ads that failed are a product of bad writing. However, other failed ads still hit the right notes regarding creatives, yet still fail altogether. Your ads, solutions, business culture, and market’s felt needs should perfectly align before you see the numbers. Otherwise, your efforts will only fall under history’s advertising upsets, hurting your business.

Why do Good Ad Campaigns Turn into Failed Ads?

We’ve all seen bad advertisements before– you know what I’m talking about. I mean those commercials that make us groan, scratch our heads or even change the channel from the cringe. Then we eventually learn that the brands behind those commercials fail to receive flak and online backlash. That’s a pretty understandable and valid public sentiment.

However, have you ever wondered why some excellent ad campaigns fail? It’s a question that has puzzled business owners for years. After all, if a campaign is creative, has strong messaging, and has a big budget, shouldn’t it be a guaranteed success?

The answer is no, and the reasons for these failed ads are also quite simple. Still, countless entrepreneurs overlook them.

Let’s explore the four reasons why good ad campaigns turn into failed ads, according to Roy H. Williams:

1. Too Little Repetition

Did you know that the average folk encounters 5,000 ads daily?

It’s no wonder we have become desensitized to adverts, often finding them annoying, intrusive, and invasive. For business owners, this is a problem. The more advertisements your audience sees daily, the less information they retain from each ad. That’s why modern research suggests seeing an ad seven times before it registers with a user.

Some good ad campaigns turn into advertising upsets when there’s too little repetition. This means your targeted audiences do not see or hear your ads frequently enough for them to sink in. In the sales process, customers need to be aware of your offer and familiarize themselves with it. This will require you to run your advertising repeatedly.

When you don’t, any good campaign becomes failed ads, and there are only two reasons this could happen:

  1. Your advertising campaign was shorter than your buying cycle.
  2. Your advertising campaign did not reach the same audience frequently enough.

Ad frequency is vital for long-term retention, but relationships also take time. When you take the length of your buying cycle, your advertising campaign must be longer. Otherwise, you’ve convinced your buyer to buy your thing, but then stopped telling them to buy it from you. Congratulations to your competitors!

There’s a caveat, though. An ad that offers an irresistible, offensively huge value with a limited-time offer skips this requirement.

Why? Because the brain needs not retain a brand when the deal is over.

2. Deeply Entrenched Competitors

How often have you seen a good advertisement that didn’t convince you to switch?

Even good advertising campaigns pale compared to deeply entrenched competitors who meet their audience’s felt needs. Remember that advertisements are a promise of what’s to come. However, when customers find their haven, why risk what they already have for another promise?

Normally, in cases such as this, the reason for your failed ads is beyond your control. Except if you are in the an industry that has natural boundaries, such as the residential home service industry. Most home services operate locally, unlike digital businesses that only occupy online real estate. This means that you have complete control over whether you’ll compete in a locality with a tight competition or not.

Publish ads in a heavily guarded fortress, and expect everyone to walk over it. Choose a spot where no competitors tread, and see your business soar to the high heavens.

3. Failing to Deliver

Both factors we previously mentioned look at failed ads from a pre-emptive perspective. In other words, they have already failed advertising campaigns before the sale. This third factor classifies unsuccessful advertisements reactively or after the sales happen.

Allow me to explain.

As I have mentioned earlier, advertisements are a promise of what is to come or what customers should expect. The stronger your messaging gets, and the bigger the stakes you make, the higher the expectation you set for customers.

Sometimes, the product or service you are offering cannot meet these high expectations. Businesses may massively overhype their value proposition to generate a buzz.

When people have been lied to, and the product is not as good as advertised, it leads to failed ads. Worse, you are losing out on potential repeat customers for your business.

How many disappointed customers does it take before everyone learns that you under-deliver on your promises?

4. Lack of Interest

Not every business model is commercially viable. Some businesses are easier to sell than others, and the likelihood of failed ads is little to none. Other types of business are just a hard sell for any market. Sometimes, even when they produce some of the most beautiful advertising, they still fail.

Mostly, that’s because they provide solutions to problems their target market does not face. In this case, the failure was not because of the ads but the business model. While residential home services usually do not fall in this category, there are instances when failed ads could occur. An example is when the offered value propositions don’t fit a market’s taste.

For example, let us look at a sewer repair contractor. Imagine the competitive landscape comprised of sewer companies that offer trenchless sewer line replacements. Any advertisement that offers traditional trenched approaches that excavate landscapes will be ultimately ignored.

Another instance is when you run ads that are out of season. For example, an HVAC contractor runs ads on heating repair or furnace installation during the summer. The campaign does not make any sense and will only result in failed ads.

AAirpass – American Airlines

It’s a different story when household brands commit failed advertising campaigns. There are many cases of ads gone wrong in the trade history. However, one of the most interesting cases yet is AAirpass by American Airlines in the 1980s. Despite their reputation, failed ads still receive recognition, albeit in a negative light.

AAirpass is one of the most notable failed ads in history. Here’s the thing, it failed not because the advertising flopped. Instead, this advertising strategy succeeded so much that it cost the company millions of dollars. Because of a rough patch in the ’80s, AA looked for quick ways to raise its capital. However, unlike other businesses that secure bank loans to keep their runway, AA decided to sell AAirpasses. This was a lifetime of first-class air travel in exchange for a flat rate of $250,000.

The problem is that this strategy backfired as AA started losing millions yearly from the high volume AAirpass flights. Now, let’s compare the campaign side by side with the four factors we’ve listed above:

  • The AAirpass ad had more than enough repetition. Word got out quickly thanks to a household brand like American Airlines and their lucrative offer.
  • The offer was so valuable that it won over the competitor’s customers. After all, why pay a fee for every flight when you could limitlessly fly first-class for a large upfront sum?
  • American Airlines delivered on its promises. The first few AAirpass holders were manageable to bear, but a surge of free first-class flights? That’s too much to handle for any airline company.
  • The interest was there. Obviously, everyone who could afford AAirpass was quick to get a hold of one. Who in the right mind would pass up such a lucrative opportunity of unlimited first-class flights?

American Airlines hit all the checkboxes that should make their ad successful. It was an exemption to the rule among all advertisements that flopped. The AAirpass sales gave them the quick money, attention, and sales they wanted, but it backfired miserably. Why?

Because creative advertising and irresistible offers on their own are not enough to avoid failed ads. Producing advertisements comes with a lot of planning and strategizing on the backend. Otherwise, your ads could fall into the same pitfall as American Airlines.

Therefore, trust advertising specialists who will help you produce good ad campaigns and strategize effectively. Ryan Chute from Wizard of Ads® happens to be a master advertising strategist. If you don’t want failed ads, book a call.